(BATAVIA) Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in west suburban Batavia is facing $36 million in federal budget cuts, officials said.
“The (federal) Office of High Energy Physics has given us an estimate of our final budget for this fiscal year — approximately $368 million, 9 percent lower than last year,” Fermilab Director Pier Oddone said.
The 9 percent reduction reflects a $29 million cut that the Office of High Energy Physics had already slated for the laboratory, plus an additional $7 million due to the effects of the federal sequestration budget cuts.
“We have been spending at a lower level since the beginning of the year in anticipation of these cuts, proposed last February,” Oddone wrote. “However, sequestration has resulted in even greater cuts than anticipated, which has required some significant adjustments on our part.”
To adjust for sequestration, Fermilab will submit a proposal to the Department of Energy to delay a major project and reallocate those funds to operating the rest of the laboratory.
U..S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Winfield) has announced his opposition to the cuts in the High Energy Physics program, calling the cuts a “disproportionate slashing” of Fermilab’s budget.
“The work done by scientists and researchers like those at Fermilab is essential to our economy by unlocking untapped potential for growth across countless job-supporting industries,” Hultgren said. “The Obama Administration has chosen to prioritize loan guarantees and industrial subsidies to their friends in the green energy business, rather than invest in the long-term scientific research that has the proven track record of benefiting our nation in every walk of life.”
Recently, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville) addressed the House Budget Committee to encourage further investment in research and development programs like those at Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory near Lemont.
Fermilab has so far been tight-lipped on just which project would be delayed due to the proposed budget cuts, but according to its media office, the proposed project delay would free up dollars to keep the rest of the laboratory running.
The budget issues come at a time of some notable successes for Fermilab. On March 14, the physicists searching for the elusive Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that is a crucial building block of the universe, announced further success in proving the particle’s existence. Scientists at a conference in Italy said that they now had “clear evidence” that the particle found last July is indeed the Higgs boson.
Also, Fermilab scientists recently announced success on another frontier of particle physics, a detector on NOvA, an experiment designed to shoot neutrinos hundreds of miles through the Earth to better understand their properties. The experiment recorded its first 3D image of a particle recently.
The captured image essentially proves that a major component of the NOvA experiment, its neutrino detector, is up and running.
A spokesman for the lab confirmed that, under the proposed cuts, neither NOvA nor the remote operations center that conducts experiments on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, will be affected by the funding cuts. Oddone’s letter also indicated that, should the Department of Energy approve Fermilab’s proposal for the project delay, employees at the lab should not expect furloughs.
The proposal, however, will take high-level approval and, with several other requests in front of the Department of Energy due to sequestration, could take more than a month to be approved. Oddone said he hoped to be able to make an announcement on the budget at a meeting April 25 at Fermilab.
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